The learning, teaching and assessment of partnership work in social work education

What does teaching about partnership work include?

See also: Good practice examples

Given the theoretical confusion already identified, the teaching content in relation to partnership is diverse, depending on the teaching aims and theoretical approach adopted. There has to be a ‘fit’ between the learning aims and the content, reflecting a balance between learning about knowledge, skills and values.

Key information from the knowledge review

There are similarities and differences in the content of learning and teaching for partnership with people who use services and their carers , and learning and teaching partnership with other professionals. This suggests that the context for the learning and teaching of partnership work is significant to the content.

The main commonality appears to be in the values base for partnership work and the view that, similar to education for anti-oppressive practice, education for partnership work is about identifying and managing power. However, an analysis of power is largely missing in the partnership education literature.

Partnership knowledge and skills: between professionals

In the research review the distinction was made between partnership education which is interprofessional (delivered interprofessionally) and knowledge and skill development for interprofessional working (which may be delivered uniprofessionally). The following table provides a summary of some of the information gained about knowledge and skill development which emerged from both approaches to partnership education.

Knowledge and skills in partnership work between professionals

Students are expected to know about and understand:

  • professional identities, perspectives and value bases
  • groupwork and teamwork
  • role distinctions, boundaries, complementarity, conflict.

Students are expected to develop skills in:

  • collaboration
  • communication
  • advocacy
  • managing multi-disciplinary meetings.

The literature of interprofessional partnership education provides a very mixed picture of its effects. Some of the key points that emerged from different studies are summarised below:

Partnership knowledge and skills: users and carers

Partnership with users and carers in a range of fields is discussed in the literature, including domestic violence, palliative care, families and child protection, mental health, learning disabilities and older people. We did not find residential care discussed in relation to social work and partnership work.

Jackson and Morris (3) reported that coverage of the implications of race, class, religion, culture and language was seen as important in developing partnership practice, although students felt that programmes could only cover certain aspects in the time available. Race and language were covered in all programmes they reviewed, but disability, sexuality, class, religion and culture had limited coverage. These findings might well be different if this study were repeated now. However, we would agree with the authors that without explicit teaching in this area, an understanding of how oppression can create barriers to partnership working is unlikely to be grasped.

The following table identifies the expectations of knowledge and skills of partnership work with users and carers which emerged from the literature.

Knowledge and skills in partnership work with users and carers

Students are expected to know about and understand:

  • user and carer experiences in a range of fields
  • discriminatory and oppressive stereotypes and attitudes and their effects.

Students are expected to develop skills in:

  • interpersonal communication, including with users and carers with particular communication needs (see, for example, SCIE Knowledge review 12 (10)
  • advocacy
  • working in an empowering way
  • demonstrating respect
  • using written agreements
  • critically reflecting on explicit and/or implicit feedback.

The limited nature of these lists, particularly of knowledge, reflects the findings from the literature at the time of the review. Good practice examples given below provide a more comprehensive overview of the potential knowledge and skills required for partnership work with users and carers.

See also: What does teaching about partnership work include? Good practice examples